3 Best Alaska Ski Resorts for Beginners With Friends & Family

by Simon Knott | Posted On: September 6th, 2022
Alaska ski resort (2)

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While Alaska is remote in one sense it is at the same time wholly accessible. We’ve chosen three different resorts, where you can get a taste of the wild in a safe environment. Choose your pick.

Our top pick is Hilltop Ski Area. It couldn’t have been better designed for beginners if they tried. 80% of the trails are beginner, it’s a friendly not-for-profit with reasonably priced accommodation nearby.

Top Picks

    3. Arctic Valley

    Arctic Valley
    Photo by Paxson Woelber licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Also operated as a not-for-profit, the Arctic Valley ski area is run by volunteers from Anchorage Ski Club. Located inland NE from Anchorage it has easy access to communication at nearby Anchorage International airport or by road.

    What’s the Skiing like?

    It’s easy to get the sense you are skiing in the backcountry when you visit the Arctic Valley ski area. There are fewer cars, fewer people and less everything! However, when you’re learning to ski you will make much more progress if your stress levels are lower. So, a quiet area with not too many people has to be the best bet.

    Arctic Valley has a small beginner area just to the back of the Alpen Glow Day Lodge, where there is a rope tow and a short green run called Pony. To progress from here you need to move to the other side of the Day Lodge, where you can pick up the T-bar.

    There will always be someone at the departure point to help you if you haven’t used one before. As the bar drags you up the hill estimate when you have traveled about a third of the total distance and let go of the lift. Make sure you move away from people coming up from behind.

    Where you depart from the T-bar is the beginning of the small green run, Beginners. This takes you straight down to the T-bar station where you can do the same. When you are ready to progress onto blue runs ask an instructor which ones are the easiest this year.

    Learning to Ski

    Ski and snowboard lessons are available as one-to-one private lessons or in groups. Additionally, Arctic Valley offers several lessons introducing backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

    There is currently no equipment rental at Arctic Valley but Alaska Outdoor Gear Rentals and Play It Again Sports will be able to help you out in nearby Anchorage.

    Arctic Valley also has its own tubing park, which will admit children from the age of three. It’s best to book tickets online beforehand as the chutes get busy.

    Off the Slopes

    There is no slope-side accommodation at Arctic Valley but plenty of family-friendly choices in nearby Anchorage and even some hotels on the shores of Lake Hood.

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    There is plenty to do in Anchorage with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can learn about the history and lifestyle of the indigenous people of Alaska.

    What We Love About Arctic Valley

    • Easy communication with Anchorage International Airport.
    • Arctic Valley is a not-for-profit with a friendly feel.
    • The resort has a backcountry feel but is safe for beginners

    Arctic Valley Stats

    Summit Elevation:2500 ft / 762 metres
    Skiable terrain: 320 acres
    Lifts:7
    Runs:24

    2. Alyeska Resort – Girdwood

    Alyeska ski resort
    Alyeska Ski Resort – Photo by Ben Miller licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    The mountains of the Kenai Peninsula reflect in the unusually calm waters of Turnagain Arm as skiers ride the lift to the top of the run at Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood, Alaska.

    Alaska is renowned for its scenery and Alyeska is no exception. What’s more, when you’re staying so far north there is an increased likelihood of you seeing the Northern Lights, especially from December to February.

    Alyeska Ski Resort receives on average an astonishing 56 ft (16½ m) of snowfall per season and the skiable terrain extends over 1600 acres, of which 113 acres are covered with snowmaking.

    Situated 40 miles east of Anchorage and its international airport, Alyeska is next door to the small town of Girdwood and its 2000 inhabitants.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Only 11% of the runs are rated for beginners, however, Alyeska Ski Resort is still a good place to learn, especially if you combine your practice with a good couple of days of tuition.

    The main beginner area is in front of the Sitzmark Bar and Grill, where you’ll find the Bear Cub Quad chairlift, which will give you access to a handful of blue and green runs, which will be able to help you find your feet.

    From the top of the Bear Cub Quad chairlift, it’s only a short distance to Chair 7 and the longer green run, Blueberry Hill. Some of the easiest blue runs are found by taking the Ted’s Express chairlift and coming down either side of the forested area back to base.

    With over 52% of the resort marked as suitable for intermediates, you will be able to find the easiest blue runs amongst them as you build confidence.

    A possible downside of the big scenery is the big weather that can accompany it. The exposed maritime setting can lead to occasional wild storms, which lead to trail closures.

    Learning to Ski

    Alyeska Ski Resort offers both private and group lessons, which are grouped according to age and ability. Often for beginners, a semiprivate lesson is a cost-effective way to get the best of both worlds.

    If you are in a family or group, the first person will pay the full price, but subsequent editions will be at a lower fee. With fewer members in the group, you will have the advantage of more personal tuition from your instructor.

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    Lessons are best booked in advance, especially for youngsters under four and for groups of similar ability but different ages. Lessons generally take place at 11 AM and 2 PM and can be booked for one or two hours.

    The northern latitude reduces daylight hours and so floodlit skiing takes place from Thursday to Saturday 4-9 PM.

    Off the Slopes

    In spite of the remote location, family accommodation is straightforward, courtesy of Hotel Alyeska, which is close to the base of the tram, making ski-in ski-out easy for the whole family. The 304-room hotel has several restaurants, a pool, hot tubs, a spa, and a fitness center.

    Outside of the resort, the local town of Girdwood has a selection of condos and Bed & Breakfasts. If you decide on a break from the slopes, there are activities such as a glacier boat tour or Anchorage Museum.

    What We Love About Alyeska

    Alyeska is well known for its panoramic scenery.

    • During weekdays lift tickets at Alyeska are cheaper.
    • There are reduced packages for beginners which include lift tickets, lessons, and equipment rental.
    • Slope-side accommodation is a real plus after a long day on the snow

    Alyeska Stats

    Summit Elevation:3939 ft / 1200 metres
    Skiable terrain: 1610 acres
    Lifts:7
    Runs:76

    1. Hilltop – Anchorage  

    Hilltop Anchorage

    Hilltop Ski Area is located at the base of the Chugach Mountains on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. It’s a smaller ski area ideally set up for beginners, where there are plenty of easier runs and the area is unlikely to attract more experienced skiers, who will be looking for bigger challenges elsewhere.

    What’s the Skiing Like?

    Hilltop ski area opened in 1984 and it extends to about 30 acres of groomed runs. 80% of the trails are classed as beginner, with 10% classed as intermediate, and the remaining 10% classed as an expert.

    The ski area is operated as a not-for-profit and its mission has been to provide recreational programs to the younger members of Anchorage.

    Just in front of the base Lodge, there is a smaller beginner area with a surface tow called Tudor Tow. The whole beginner area has been classed as a quiet zone, so you can be confident you won’t be interrupted by faster skiers.

    When you’ve found your confidence in the beginner area it’s straightforward to progress onto the triple chair lift, The Triple, which takes you to the top of the mountain. Turn left at the top of the chair and you can take your choice of two green runs, Ptarmigan and Brown Bear, which head back down to the base.

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    The runs are enjoyably wide, so you can practice your turns easily and some of the trees have been left on the trails to add extra interest. As you are heading down, you’ll see on the right-hand side the drag lift, The Platter, which will take you back up to the top of the run.

    During your stay at Hilltop Ski Area, you should eventually find the confidence to move on from the green runs. So, take The Triple to the top again but this time turn right at the top and descend on Caribou. Make sure you keep left as you descend into the run Wolverine because it’s easy to fork right onto a black run.

    Learning to Ski

    Lessons at Hilltop Ski Area are available as private or group lessons. Lessons are grouped according to age and ability, with the youngest grouping aimed at toddlers of 3-6 years. All lessons must be booked by phone.

    If you are unsure about the level of lesson you should be booking, take a look at the ski area website on the lessons page, which has a series of videos and statements, which will enable you to judge your ability.

    Off the Slopes

    Hilltop Ski Area is in the municipality of Anchorage, where there is a good range of accommodation options, from hotels to B&Bs, as well as condos and holiday homes. Anchorage Airport is also nearby with fast connections to many US cities.

    What We Love About Hilltop Ski Area

    • The panoramic views and the possibility of seeing the aurora borealis.
    • The location is remote but the welcome is warm.
    • This is an ideal resort for beginners with mostly easier runs.

    Hilltop Ski Area Stats

    Summit Elevation:786 ft / 239 m
    Skiable terrain: 30 acres
    Lifts:1
    Runs:10

    Why Choose Alaska for Skiing?

    With its stunning scenery during the day and the possibility of seeing the Northern lights at night, Alaska is a definite bucket list draw for skiers and snowboarders. While the wilderness is always only around the corner these three resorts leave you confident you can relax and enjoy the skiing.

    How Did We Order This List?

    To help rank our top selection of ski resorts for this list we compared the following ranking factors:

    👨‍👩‍👦 Ranking Factor📈 Power to affect Rank
    Amount of Beginner Trails (Mi) 4x
    Amount of Skiing Area (Mi) 3x
    Cost of two adult tickets + child ticket1x
    How many magic carpet lifts1x

    We gave each factor its own weight depending on how important we feel it is for family fun across all ages. For example, a resort with more beginner trails is higher ranked than a resort with a lower-priced family ticket – with all else being equal. That’s because while cost is a factor, it’s not a primary one. We may also use our editorial judgment to remove or add resorts that we believe should make the list.

    When taking all of this into account, it gives us our awesome list above. We hope it was helpful in planning your next ski trip.

    P.S We have an article on the best family ski resorts in Alaska.

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    Best Ski Resorts for Beginners In Alaska

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